Small and medium-sized cities discuss urban nodes, zero-emission freight and city attractiveness

The Small and Medium Sized City (SMC) Platform meeting, held on 28 June 2021, brought together a range of SMCs to examine what other cities are doing and explore common solutions for shared challenges. It proved a highly interesting meeting, with participants reaching out to their peers for advice and useful case studies.  

Urban mobility can only be truly sustainable when tailored to individual needs and capacities of cities and regions.

Collaboration is indispensable for progress, but unique governance environments mean there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A cycling strategy which works for Amsterdam may not fit Barcelona, and a micromobility project operating in Lisbon may not serve London’s streets. This is particularly poignant for small and medium-sized cities. Their size and shape create unique challenges for sustainable mobility innovation, yet also exciting opportunities.

POLIS’ Small and Medium-Sized Cities Platform seeks to facilitate knowledge sharing and exchange of best practices and common challenges, while promote the accomplishments and innovations of smaller cities. Indeed, POLIS hosts many small and medium sized members which are engaged in a range of cutting-edge ventures which are changing the face of urban mobility.

Logistics: New opportunities for SMCs 

Freight is one such mobility topic which requires attention to urban geography. We have witnessed a proliferation of last mile delivery solutions, with SMEs playing a central role in developing cutting edge zero-emissions delivery services.

POLIS’ new project, SURF (Sustainable URban Freight), launched on 15 April 2021, aims to support the development of Zero-Emission Zones for freight (ZEZ-Fs).

Dr. Giacomo Lozzi, Coordinator of POLIS’ Urban Freight Working Group, presented this initiative.

Leading by example: Aarhus

Aarhus is one city which has been selected to participate in the SURF project. The Danish port city, (as well as other SMEs Ravenna in Italy and Karditsa in Greece) will benefit from project funding.

In 2008, Aarhus city council launched its climate strategy to be CO2-neutral in 2030. This action plan is made up of a range of specific action plans including energy, transport and mobility, buildings and city development and more.

Urban nodes and the role of SMCs 

As Green Deal targets loom, SMCs will play an important role in the smart and sustainable mobility strategy.

The EU is updating the sectorial ‘guidelines’ for the establishment of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) aim to enhance this European multimodal and interoperable transport network enabling the smooth global transport flows of both freight and passengers, improving cross-border connections and removing bottlenecks and missing links.

These revisions aim to support the Green Deal and the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, modernizing the current legal framework and to step up efforts in aligning TEN-T with new priorities.

UVAR and city’s attractiveness: Opportunities and challenges for small and medium-sized cities

Dr. Koos Fransen from University of Ghent Faculty of Engineering and Architecture presented some key insights from the ReVeAL project, and how SMCs are establishing a range of innovative solutions for zero-emissions transport.

The project seeks to enable cities to optimise urban space and transport network usage using Urban Vehicle Access Regulations (UVARs), with pilots in Helmond (NL), Jerusalem (IL), London (UK), Padova (IT), Vitoria-Gasteiz (ES) and Bielefeld (DE).

SMC’s often have lower critical mass and reduced financial power. Nonetheless, the potential for smaller, bottom-up initiatives and opportunity for exploring new, innovative system designs, makes SMCs interesting and exciting living labs for emissions reduction initiatives.


Please note: POLIS working group meetings are open to members only. For further information contact Pasquale Cancellara, Project and Membership Services Manager -  SMC platform Coordinator,

The city of Aahrus is a member of the Small and Medium Sized City Platform. Credits: Melander /